Victor Picture Disc: Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" by The Philadelphia Orchestra (dir. Leopold Stokowski)


One of Robert Irwin's inspirations as he planned the first AFB Talking Book recordings was a 1932 Picture Disc of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," with dramatic narration and musical accompaniment from The Philadelphia Orchestra (dir. Leopold Stokowski).

Excerpt from Mills and Sterne, "Aural Speed Reading: Some Historical Bookmarks":

"When the first talking books were recorded in the 1930s at the AFB and APH studios, long before audiobooks were available commercially for mainstream audiences, they employed theatrical narration and experimental sound effects. Yet particular subsets of blind readers—mostly university students and employees in reading-intensive work environments—quickly became dissatisfied with this approach.

According to complaint letters and other feedback to the AFB, talking-book readers agitated for a standardized aural interface, to facilitate speeded playback with less distortion of the resulting high-pitched speech. Specific demands included unembellished recordings with even, legato narration (Helms 8). Many also preferred unaffected delivery—what they called “neutral” or “informative” speech—in order to leave all interpretation to the blind reader."

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